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In recent years, the global community has witnessed a surge in awareness regarding environmental issues and the need for sustainable living. In response to this, companies have increasingly sought innovative solutions that not only address a sustainable and green future but also contribute to face social challenges connected with food waste.
Too Good To Go is an innovative platform that addresses the immense issue of food waste by connecting businesses with surplus food to consumers. The platform operates as a bridge, allowing users to purchase surplus food from local restaurants, cafes, and grocery stores at a reduced price. The typical surprise bag can be paid for via the app and then collected within a specified time window by the customer.
The Too Good to Go App is an innovative and creative solution that efficiently connects businesses within the food industry with consumers through a user-friendly digital marketplace. They created a new model for saving food waste where leftover food can be purchased in magic bags. These so-called “Magic Bags” are assorted and rescued surplus items from a big range of partners; including supermarkets, bakeries, restaurants, hotels, and gas stations, which are sold for a third of the price. Purchasing allows users to actively engage in sustainable practices and contribute into the reduction of food waste and the companies to actively help solving a social problem Too Good To Go embodies the transformative potential of technology and volition of a small group of people with the broader mission of creating a more sustainable and responsible food consumption ecosystem.
Considering these factors, compounded by the climate crisis, a new mindset occurred and the urge to help to redirect discarded food to those in need.
The innovation behind Too Good To Go is undeniably linked to a big mission. The company’s mission revolves around the Sustainable Development Goals 17 “Partnerships for the goals”, 2 “No Hunger”, 12 “Responsible Consumption and production”, and 13 “Climate Action”. By addressing the alarming levels of food waste globally and fusing modern and daily used technology for social and environmental good, Too Good to Go aligns its innovation with a broader purpose to foster sustainability, reduce the carbon footprint, and to create a positive impact on local communities. The mission is not just a slogan but a driven force that infiltrates every aspect of the community, from the app's functionality to the educational initiatives aimed at raising awareness about food waste. As stated by Nora Walraph: “Because we are so aware of the impact of this food waste and it is in our DNA that we continue to push it forward “(Nora Walraph, 2023).
It all began in 2015, when Thomas Bjørn Momsen, Stian Olesen, Klaus Bagge Pedersen, Adam Sigbrand and Brian Christensen, the founders, were dining at a buffet restaurant. They acknowledged the need for a change and the urgent work towards climate action, as they noticed that the waiters were tossing all the food left over from that day. Having observed the concerning amount of food being wasted, they decided to create an alternative to solve the global problem of food waste, which is liable for 10% of all CO2 emissions. In France, Lucie Basch, another co-founder, had a similar idea. They decided to collaborate with her and with Jamie Crummie, and it was a success. According to Nora Walraph,“(…) joining forces and working together is often what works with sustainability ideas and start-ups.”
Shortly after, the concept of the app as it exists today was developed. In 2016, it was launched on the German market and the first bag was sold. The motivation to take on this problem came from a look at the facts. As Nora Walraph stated, “40% of all food that is produced ends up being thrown away (…) [while] 820 million people in the world suffer from hunger and that wouldn't have to be the case if we simply distributed this food properly.”
The numbers are staggering. This issue has significant economic, social, and environmental impacts. It is crucial to address this problem to reduce waste and promote sustainability. Approximately 1.3 million tons of food are wasted annually, resulting in a loss of about one billion dollars. The problem is not a shortage of food, but rather the mismanagement of resources and irresponsible handling of it. The World Resources Institute (2022) states that it requires 2,250 square meters of agricultural land to produce food per person. In 2022, approximately 227,000 square kilometers of rainforest were cleared or burned down to produce meat, palm oil, and other consumable goods.
While the main purpose is to fight world hunger and reduce food waste, the founders wanted to offer a simple solution. Nora Walraph explained, how it was very important to the founders to have an app without a complicated backend and a clear overview for all users. However, the app's significance extends beyond its simplicity. It aims to change society's mentality and actions on food waste and climate change in the long term.
Too Good To Go is not just a business innovation; it is a dedicated effort focused solely on addressing food waste and its environmental consequences. Operating independently from shareholders and aligned with a community of like-minded individuals. In the short term, the platform witnessed a rapid increase in user engagement and business participation. Internationally, the number of registered users also increased by 50 percent, the number of business partners by 30 percent (in 2023). Consumers quickly embraced the concept, leading to a positive initial impact. This initial positive impact motivated the platform to expand its range in the long run, encompassing households, companies, schools, and even public affairs. Furthermore, we should consider the transformative impact on participating businesses. Through Too Good To Go, businesses reduce their food waste and ‘‘the less they end up throwing away, the more they can reduce their costs in terms of waste production ‘(Nora Walraph, 2023). Apart from that, companies gain additional revenue by selling surplus items that would have otherwise gone unsold. Cross-Selling effects a la ‘‘Oh, I'm already here, I need this too‘ (Nora Walraph, 2023) are not uncommon. This has led to increased sustainability and economic benefits for the business partners.
Too Good To Go has a profound impact on society by fostering a sense of responsibility among consumers. The platform empowers individuals to make informed choices, promoting a more sustainable and conscious approach to food consumption. Additionally, the initiative addresses food insecurity by making affordable and a variety of food options available to a broader demographic.
The success of Too Good To Go can also be expressed in figures as follows: Over 75 million registered users worldwide and 134,000 active Too Good To Go business partners. Furthermore Too Good To Go is officially B Corp certified, while "B" stands for Benefit for all and "Corp" for Corporation. In other words, a company that is simultaneously committed to creating added value for society and the environment.
The environmental impact is significant, as Too Good To Go contributes to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions associated with food waste decomposition and production, since the start already 147.500 (in 2023) tons of CO2 equivalents saved in Germany alone (over 500.000 tons worldwide). By diverting edible surplus from landfills, the platform helps mitigate environmental harm and promotes a circular and effective economy. In this context, Too Good To Go has already saved more than 250 million meals.
The innovation has brought benefits in terms of market expansion, partner growth and the number of registered users and employees.Too Good To Go is already active in 15 European countries, 2 countries in North America, Canada, and the USA. Awareness of the brand continues to grow. In Austria, they have already reached their full potential. They continue to share the vision of "a planet without food waste" worldwide. For example, the French start-up Codabene was purchased. With Too Good To Go, the AI-based start-up is on its way to abolishing the arbitrariness of best-before dates.
The number of employees is also continuing to grow. With around 1290 people working at various locations. Around 100 employees work in Germany alone. Particular importance is attached to employees. For example, the employees in Germany have a mental health day. This means that they take time off without having to object. This approach to employees not only boosts motivation but also cooperation. According to Nora Walraph (2023), "My motivation (...) I really wanted a mission, it is very important to me in my work. If I have the feeling that I'm not doing anything meaningful with my work, then I'm extremely unmotivated and don't feel like it at all".
The number of partner companies and consumers is constantly increasing. They measure their success by the number of surprise bags they sell. Nora says, "That's our currency, because that's the impact we deliver in the end, and it's exponential what has happened in the last few years" (Nora Walraph, 2023). Every time a business partner e.g. a café sells a bag to a customer, Too Good To Go gets 1,19 EUR per bag. Additionally, they charge an annual fee of 39,99 (in 2022). In essence, the monetary success of Too Good To Go is directly linked with its mission to combat food waste, creating a good balance between economic viability and environmental responsibility.
Simplified, the earnings help keep the company running and as mentioned earlier, make a difference in consumer awareness, education, and politics. Looking ahead, there's still a lot of room to grow, as Nora Walraph notes, "we still have so much growth potential in most countries" (Nora Walraph, 2023).
The societal benefits are reflected in increased awareness and consciousness among consumers. Too Good To Go fosters a community-driven approach to addressing food waste, encouraging users to be mindful of their consumption habits. Food awareness can also contribute to healthier eating habits and therefore a healthier population. Too Good To Go is also working to change date labelling, pushing for legislative change, and running campaigns in schools, canteens and for households. "We also use our social media channels to explain how to preserve food for longer, what to do with certain leftovers and what to do with stale bread." (Nora Walraph, 2023). Speaking of the not yet mentioned date labelling, Too Good To Go has a very clear position on the best-before date, Nora says that ''the best-before date is just a date and it doesn't mean that once it has expired, a food is then deadly and absolutely no longer edible. It's a guideline and we want to have it changed politically because it simply creates a lot of food waste.'' (Nora Walraph, 2023). Considering the hard facts: while Too Good To Go only had 319 employees in 2019, by 2023 the figure is 1290, which implies a good growth and makes them a reliable employer. Remarkable is also the employee structure whereby 50% of the management positions are led by women, keeping an eye on equality. They also encourage for diversity, inclusion and awareness in general by ‘’ensuring that everyone at Too Good To Go, across all levels of the organisation understands why diversity, equity and inclusion are so important to how we work.’’
The environmental benefits are evident in the reduction of food-related carbon emissions, preservation of natural resources through equivalent saved resources by the absence of demand for fresh food. More important is to emphasize that although picking up excess food in bags has a tangible and positive effect, the real change has to start in people's mindset and behaviour. A few bags can be symbolic of a start, but the real work lies in tackling the root problems, particularly people's approach to food, consumption habits and understanding the environmental impact of their actions and Too Good To Go does the work.
In conclusion, Too Good To Go is not just a solution to food waste but a catalyst for a shift towards responsible consumer choices through education and community engagement. The vision of a planet without food waste remains central to its mission. Looking ahead, Too Good To Go can enhance its impact by further expanding educational initiatives, collaborating with more businesses, and influencing policy changes. Continuous growth and innovation will be key to achieving an even greater positive influence on societal and environmental behaviors. "Our vision is indeed a planet without food waste, and until we achieve that, we will persist in our mission" (Nora Walraph, 2023) echoes the enduring dedication of Too Good To Go to drive positive change and a greener globe.
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Nora Walraph, Press Spokewoman for Germany, Austria and Switzerland
Too Good To Go is a Danish mobile app, addressing food waste by connecting users with businesses selling surplus food at discounted rates. Users can buy "magic bags" containing unsold items, reducing waste and promoting sustainable consumption. Operating globally, the app charges a commission on transactions, benefiting both users and businesses. Despite challenges, Too Good To Go remains a key player in the mission to minimize food waste globally.